“Until you take off the project we are contractually obliged to keep working.” – Manar Hussain
When you’ve been in the freelancing sector for a while, you’re used to getting unexpected work from customers and surprising calls from previous collaborators about a project. You should be aware that as a freelancer, you should always be prepared to take calls, even if you are on vacation or have been assigned an impossible assignment with a short deadline.
This is exactly what happened to our friend Manar Hussain, who shared his client-horror story experience that almost became a disaster, but thankfully was saved by his instincts and intuitive responses as a businessman.
Manar received a phone call from an unknown number, which started it all. The anonymous caller spoke with Manar and said that his friend had recommended Manar to assist them in handling a critical problem that needed to be resolved as soon as possible. Manar then asked what assistance he could provide to them, and the unknown caller told him that he needed Manar’s help fixing their website.
The unknown caller told Manar that their website worked perfectly in terms of all the pages work and everything. However, if they have two or more users on their site, the website would crash and would reboot. Their page only works one page at a time, so it has a major problem in the website’s performance. The unknown caller badly needed Manar’s help because they are expected to present the website on Monday, and they are working in a well-known and huge media company.
Manar really felt that pressure because the unknown caller was working for a famous media company, and they needed his help to make their website work for their crucial launching on Monday. Manar could pull it off, but the central dilemma was that he received the call Friday noon, which implies that they only have two and a half days to complete their assigned task.
Manar took the challenge and aided the caller’s request. However, despite the rush and the pressure, he did not fail to allocate an hour of their precious time to have a contract signing and agreement. This is the first practical step that Manar did which we all should follow.
Always let them sign a contract.
I was amazed at what Manar did because, even though they only have limited time left to accomplish the task and he was under heavy pressure due to his client’s company, he still thought of letting them know his terms and agreement and let them sign the contract that he made. I bet that most people under that extreme pressure would not waste any time and immediately start doing the work without thinking of how they will get paid or let the client know their concerns, terms, and agreement.
Manar warned them that the rushed project would cost them a lot of money since their client asked them to work on weekends. Manar also told them that there is a possibility that they will hire people that they need out of the blue if things get out of hand.
He also suggested that he make a timetable every 2 hours so that the client would have an idea of their progress and how much money they will pay. By the way, Manar’s contract was only 1 page where he stated his specific terms and conditions for the task so that his client won’t experience the hassle of going through each page 1 by 1.
Lastly, Manar added that he and his team would give their very best effort to make it work on Monday. He did not assure that the website will work because there were many flaws to consider, but Manar made it clear to them that they would give their best efforts to accomplish the given task. Their client agreed to his term, and they immediately started their work.
Be true to your word
I loved the idea when Manar told his client that he could only assure them of his best efforts, but it could not guarantee that they could accomplish the task.
Whenever you are in this kind of situation, always evaluate your capabilities and be honest with your client. If you tell them that you can do it even if you know it’s impossible and far beyond your capabilities, be upfront and inform them. Manar didn’t know what circumstances would happen in that short span of 2 and a half days, so it was just right not to promise his client a static website on the deadline.
But Manar did not lie when he said that his team would give the client their best efforts. He was true to his words, and it was shown in his actions as the CTO of the project. Not a single second was wasted just to utilize the two days that they had left appropriately.
Manar created a timetable for all the work that they achieve every 2 hours, which means that every 2 hours, all of them would have to stop what they were doing and proceed to report what they have accomplished to the whole team. Manar hit two birds with one stone when he applied this strategy. He strengthened the control he had on his team and the project and allowed him to make a timetable to be given to his client so that they would know much work they already did and the money they are expected to receive.
Have evidence of your hard work
Another lesson that we can learn from Manar is to provide evidence for your work, and the perfect example of this was his timetable. The sole purpose of the timetable was to allow Manar to track their progress so that he could visualize a plan for his team on what they are going to do next. However, it could also be used to inform his client of the duration of their work. The client cannot say that they were not productive and they did nothing because the timetable states everything they did every 2 hours.
They worked hard to fix the website, and finally, the two and a half days have come to an end. Monday morning, they gathered to where they first had a meeting with their client, and they brought with them the report of their work. As they were waiting for their client, one of his team noticed that all of them were kicked on the first box.
They were confused because there was no clear explanation for why they were kicked. They did not make any assumptions yet and thought maybe it was a problem again on the site and continued waiting for their client. Ten minutes had passed, and there was still no sign of their client. The team started to think that there was something wrong with the client, which was then proven true when they were again kicked from the second box.
Don’t be passive and ask immediately what’s wrong
When you are in this kind of situation, do not hesitate to do what Manar did. He sent an email to his client immediately asking what the problem was. Manar also requested in the email if they were kicked unintentionally or if the client did it on purpose and wanted them to stop working on the project.
For Manar, it was necessary to get the answer from his client saying that he doesn’t want them to continue working on the project anymore.
Manar wanted to hear those words from the client so that they could send their invoice and immediately leave. Manar waited the whole day for the client’s response, yet he did not receive any. Since there was no clear confirmation that their client wants them to stop working, even if the act of kicking them all one by one on the boxes is already understandable enough, Manar and his team continued working on the project.
Don’t break the contract or they will use it against you
You may say that Manar was wrong when he continued working despite the red flags. Well, you’re mistaken. It was stated on the contract that they would exert their best efforts until their job is finished. They did not receive any word from their client, so they continued working to fix the website, even if it had already passed their deadline. Take note that the launch didn’t happen because their client wasn’t there.
Manar was wise enough to continue fixing the website to avoid breaking the contract that could be used against them. If they stopped working, even if the client just gave them unclear signals to stop working, they would have broken the contract, and all of their hard work would have gone to waste.
Manar made sure that he would continue to report to the timetable as well. While they were working, they received an email from their client stating that he wants them to stop working on the project. Manar agreed with no hesitation and sent the client an invoice for their overall bill. Their client responded that the invoice was unreasonable and they will not pay for the bill. Some might panic after receiving that email, but Manar was prepared for that. He had his timetable as proof, so there was nothing to worry about.
Manar then asked one of his teammates to visit the huge company where their client was working to check if he was there and explain the fairness of their invoice. His teammate came back and reported to Manar that their client was not there when he visited the main office. Surprisingly, Manar had a friend who worked at the same huge media company as their client, and this person told Manar that their client was just “hiding under the desk” when his teammate asked where he was.
Look for an alternative solution.
After hearing that their client was just hiding under his desk when they visited his office, it became clear that their client was avoiding them and didn’t want to pay. So what he did was he went to the higher-ups and sent them an email.
Manar explained everything in the email that he sent, and he also attached the timetables they created as proof of their hard work. Manar sent the company their invoice, and unexpectedly, without any word being told, the huge company sent the complete money that their previous client owes them, and they continued with their lives.
Manar’s quick responses were the reason why they still received their rightful payment at the very end, even if their client clearly ghosted them and didn’t want to pay them. From the contract signing that he requested, the timetable strategy he implemented, and the absence of passiveness in his action, all are useful skills that made Manar a practical businessman.
This article was based upon episode #3, please watch the complete episode here.